In the documentary Uderzo: On the Divan of Asterix, the three directors remember the day they pitched their film to the co-creator of The Indomitable Gauls.
René Goscinny And Albert Uderzo created Asterix and Obelix in 1959. In other words, “two men who do not have a drop of French blood in their veins created the most famous French myth of the 20th century”specifies Anne Goscinny, the daughter of the screenwriter of Polish origin.
Albert Uderzo comes from a family of Italian immigrants, and quickly stood out for his qualities as a draftsman with impeccable precision. In 1977, on the death of Goscinny, his colleague and close friend, and when everyone was already proclaiming the disappearance of the adventures of the Gauls, he took up the torch alone.
The documentary Uderzo, on Asterix’s couch, broadcast this Friday on Canal+ (just after the latest live film, The middle Empireby Guillaume Canet), attempts to bring the designer and screenwriter out of the shadow of his sidekick, and returns to the evolution of Asterix’s empire, which has never stopped getting along, notably through the design new volumes, the creation of the amusement park, and the arrival of the franchise on the big screen.
Asterix: all the films from worst to best
It was in fact from the 2000s that the adventures of Asterix and Obelix took a form that the creators had not at all anticipated at their beginnings: live-action. Alain Chabat, Alexandre AstierAnd Guillaume Canet have in common that they entered Uderzo’s office with an idea in mind, and the desire to convince him that it was the right one. The three directors remembered their meeting with the designer and screenwriter in front of the Canal+ cameras.
Alain Chabat – Asterix and Obelix Mission Cleopatra: “Let’s not try to be smarter than Uderzo and Goscinny”
The very first live-action film was released in 1998.Asterix and Obelix against Caesar, directed by Claude Zidi, we already found Gérard Depardieu, Christian Clavier in the main roles. But it is the second chapter of the saga, released four years later, which has become the most cult.
Alain Chabat had a budget of 45 million euros – a record for French cinema – for Cleopatra Mission. “I am no longer in control of my characters. When I see actors like Depardieu or Clavier playing what I created, there’s a gap”, explained Albert Uderzo at the time. The film generated 14 million admissions at the French box office.
“By working on Asterix, we are already in very good hands. We could almost copy the boxes and achieve a 12/20 by doing a lazy job”explains Alain Chabat. “Every time I had a doubt, I told myself ‘let’s not try to be smarter than Uderzo and Goscinny.’ We have a base that is incredibly solid, campy characters, killer drawings, and atmospheres (…) Comics are the art of the ellipse. There is a panel, then nothing, and between two panels the reader makes up his or her story. With my adaptation, I kind of did what was between the boxes”, he adds. More than twenty years later, the film continues to fill theaters. The restored version released last July notably accumulated 400,000 admissions in theaters.
Alexandre Astier – The Domain of the Gods And The Secret of the Magic Potion : “Going to Uderzo is a bit like going to the Godfather”
In 2014, M6 asked Alexandre Astier to write the very first Asterix cartoon in 3D animation. The Domain of the Gods then saw the light of day, and the channel returned with a second part four years later.
“The first proposal was Asterix in Hispania. But I didn’t feel capable of creating a modern scenario with this number”, explains the director. So, rather than reusing a comic strip by Goscinny and Uderzo, the creator of Kaamelott proposed to invent a new story. Above all, he wanted to evoke the future of the Gallic village, which is never done in comics.
He himself had convinced himself that Uderzo would never accept the idea of Panoramix getting old, and was thinking of taking over to perpetuate the recipe for the magic potion. Alexandre Astier had therefore anticipated Uderzo’s categorical refusal when arriving in his office. “Going to Uderzo is a bit like going to the Godfather, you wipe your pumps before entering (…) I did my best but in my head it was ruined”. However, against all expectations, the designer replied: I thought we had covered all possible topics with René. Well no, there was one left”. Written and produced with Louis Clichy, The secret of the potion Magic generated 3.9 million admissions in France.
Guillaume Canet – The middle Empire : “Yes, but what if you don’t like it?”
“I started from the principle that it was necessary to place Asterix and Obelix at the center of the story”, begins Guillaume Canet. By proposing theMiddle Kingdom in Uderzo, the director “quickly realized that there was concern on the part of Albert on the subject of China”. “I felt a certain sadness when I saw him anxious about making this film. I realized that I was facing a man who created an empire, and who himself remains in the position of an artist and continues to say ‘yes but what if you don’t like it?’”.
Uderzo finally agreed to go for it. The documentary also contains a video of the script reading sessions, in which Uderzo is smiling from ear to ear. Afterwards, when Guillaume Canet asked him why he was so reluctant to let his Gauls go to China, he replied: “because I never knew how to draw Chinese people”says the director.
The middle Empire generated 4.6 million admissions at the box office. A relatively disappointing figure since it had to exceed 6 million spectators to become profitable given its budget of 65 million euros. For Guillaume Canet nevertheless, the film “is not a failure”. “It has been sold all over the world and has to date had more than 2 million international admissions, with hits in Europe, in Poland for example (…) I worked for five years for to carry out what I wanted to do: a great adventure spectacle. Some people like it, others don’t. The best ratings or reviews do not always go to the films that attract the most spectators”he added last May.
Asterix and Obelix: how Guillaume Canet was chosen to direct The Middle Kingdom
The documentary Uderzo, on Asterix’s couch is available in replay on MyCanal by following this link, as well asAsterix and Obelix: the Middle Kingdom (just here).